KAPAA — The Japanese stone lantern fronting the Kapaa Public Library has always held cultural meaning for the town.
But since high winds knocked the glass ball off the lantern’s head, Kapaa residents have been trying to find a way to repair the beloved landmark.
“Historical preservation is so important and the stone lantern, I think, it’s one of our community treasures,” said Rayne Regush, chairwoman of the Wailua Kapaa Neighborhood Association. “This is the 100-year anniversary for when the lantern was built.”
High winds blew the Japanese glass orb off the lantern’s top in February. It shattered when it hit the ground and Kapaa residents are still looking for a new ball — 15 to 20 inches in diameter — to replace it.
“I’m glad it was up there for as long as it was,” Regush said about the glass ball.
The stone lantern was built in 1915 by first-generation Japanese immigrants in honor of their homeland and Japanese Emperor Taisho’s coronation in 1912.
The monument stood tall in Kapaa for years until anti-Japanese sentiments rose up during World War II. In 1943, the monument was toppled and buried in order to show pro-American loyalty and to protect it from vandalism.
The monument lay buried for 29 years in Kapaa Beach Park before it was recovered in 1972. However, after the lantern was uncovered, no organization would take responsibility for it and it was reburied only 24 hours later.
The monument was then uncovered again in 1987 when Mayor Tony Kunimura, the Kauai Historical Society and others worked with the community to raise up the structure. The monument was re-erected with braces and a large concrete base.
In 2008, the stone lantern was fully restored to its former glory when students of the Leadership Kauai program worked with the Kauai Business Association to repair the structure.
“It’s a great example of different groups of the community working together on a project to benefit the community,” said the Kapaa Business Association Vice President Neill Sams, one of the people who helped to restore the lantern.
Anyone with information about a replacement orb is welcome to contact Regush at 651-1318.